Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Twenty Nine – February 2003.

Perhaps I could start this month by thanking the many of you who wrote to me sending best wishes for both the operation and recuperation. I’m pleased to be able to confirm that to date there have been no serious repercussions and I’m back gigging. I came out of hospital just four days after the operation to at least 150 e mails. So it took me a while to catch up. It was interesting being in hospital over New Year celebrations. I welcomed in the New Year with two satsuma’s, a shot of morphine and a Pete Seeger CD! That was something new and an experience I will never forget. I consider myself very lucky that the operation was done when it was. I fear that hospital waiting lists for operations such as new knees will become extremely long in the not too distant future when our hospitals find themselves working overtime simply to accommodate the poor souls suffering from terrorist attacks. I cannot understand Mr Blair’s desire to rush headlong into a conflict that will bring Muslim extremists to our shores seeking revenge. Perhaps some of my right wing pro war readers (and yes there are some) would like to explain.

I was delighted to be invited by the Halifax Fire Brigade to go to sing to them on the picket line during the most recent strike. These guys are going to be right there in the front line in the oncoming months when the terrorist attacks commence in earnest. To pay them less than £30,000 a year is scandalous. To argue about it doubly so. Of course singing on picket lines is an old folk music custom so it was pleasing for me to keep the custom going. But would I put my life on the line for £30,000? I have to confess the answer is in the negative. Anyway we sang Joe Hill, Millions Mr, Waist deep in the Big Muddy, Move on over (Or I’ll move on over you), Aragon Mill, Sun and the Moon and a few kids songs for passing strangers! Good to do, but for a sad reason.

What was really nice was to hear from Arthur Wakefield at Bollington Folk Club that Kimber’s Men were voted the top act for 2002 at the club. I have to confess I find it very odd how the attitude towards Kimber’s Men changes as soon as someone has actually seen the group work live. Arthur was really dead reluctant to book us initially and only did so after much persuasion by yours faithfully backed up by the nights he had experienced with me working solo. NOW WE ARE HIS FAVOURITE GROUP AND HE CAN’T WAIT TO BOOK US BACK! The same problem is occurring with some sea festivals who appear to book the same acts every year. They do this whether the act can sing in tune, look half-decent, are humorous on stage, can play instruments to a high quality, or not. One festival organiser was lamenting to me recently that the audiences continue to drop each year, so as a remedy he had decided to keep booking the same acts he always booked. Apparently it was a show of faith towards the groups who had supported him over the years! Well excuse me, but am I missing something here or what? What I wanted to say to him, if he continued to book the same acts year in and year out, was that I was not the least surprised to hear that the Council Authorities were cutting back his funds. But to do so, would of course have upset the guy so I simply had to zip my lips and hope he would see sense next year. (Start telling festival organisers where they are going wrong and they will never book you). Somehow, however I doubt if things will change at this particular festival. I suspect next year will see the same bunch of mostly bearded singers, trotting out the same unaccompanied songs. The quality will be good I’m sure, but you know from an artistes point of view there is nothing quite like a new venue to inspire enthusiasm, and nothing quite like an old venue to inspire complacency. The audience should be able to see old faces they rely upon and new faces to liven the imagination. I’ve seen this year’s line up of guests and it is very much the same as when I visited the festival a couple of years ago as a member of the audience. So it’s hardly surprising then that a lot of the general public have an image of shanty men being pot bellied, beer-swilling bores. Hardly surprising either that I won’t be going to the festival this year. Funny the folk scene went though that same image about 20 years ago – do we never learn? So my plea to the organisers of sea festivals (and to an extent folk festivals too who suffer the same malaise to a lesser extent) is: “TRY BOOKING SOMEONE DIFFERENT FOR A CHANGE!”

The previous paragraph was written prior to January 29th. Well, last night was the evening of January 29th and Kimber’s Men were singing at a folk club not a million miles from Manchester. We discovered after we had finished that the local folk festival committee had been convening in another room of the pub planning this year’s festival. Now it seems strange to me, perhaps some might say even careless or blinkered, that none of them stopped by to hear even one song. Now if I were on the committee of a folk festival that had deliberately decided to have a committee meeting in a pub on the same night the folk club had a guest none of us had seen I would make a strenuous effort to pop my head round the door to see exactly how good/indifferent/poor/bad they were. Yet not one of the committee stopped by. Frankly I find that extremely disappointing and strangely co-incidental with the previous paragraph. It’s doubly annoying when the folk club organiser afterwards compliments us not only on our performance but also on the fact that we have such an incredibly good guitarist, a bass voice to die for and, apart from myself, that the group is just littered with talent.

So where can you see us/me working?
Feb 14th (Joe) The Dog and Partridge, Bollington
Mar 1st (Joe) The Railway Tavern, Hensall
Mar 6th (Joe) The Arts Centre, Darlington
Mar 7th (KM) The General Ludd Folk Club, Huddersfield.
Mar 19th (Joe) The Wheatsheaf, Bough Beech, Kent
Mar 21st (Joe) The Duke of Wellington, Southampton
Mar 23rd (Joe) The Clifton Arms, Reading
Mar 24th (Joe) The Barge, Gillingham
Apr 1st (Joe) The Napoleon, Boscastle
Apr 3rd (Joe) The Community Hall, Kingsand. RNLI GIG. (Valparaiso)
Apr 5th (Joe) The Heart of Oak Music Club, Braunton, Barnstaple
Apr 7th (Joe) The ie Theatre, Axminster. (Valparaiso)
Apr 23rd (Joe) The Windsor Hotel, Pontyclun
Apr 25th (Joe) The Ratepayers Arms, Filton, Bristol


KIMBER’S MEN – “See You When The Sun Goes Down”
Did they sing shanties in harmony or in unison? It is a question mankind has pondered greatly without coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Kimber’s Men the perpetrators of the 25 track platter, have opted for harmonies (for the most part).
The group comprises Folk on Tap columnist Joe Stead (that man pops up all over the place), who is the Ship’s Doctor; Neil Kimber, the Bosun; John Bromley, the Ship’s Cook; and Roger Hepworth, the Cabin Boy. There is also a stowaway who pops up on one track, but his identity has not been revealed.
The exuberant performance of the crew makes this a very enjoyable album. Many of the shanties will be familiar, and they are complemented by relevant information culled from Shanties of the Seven Seas by Stan Hugill and Boxing the Compass by Roy Palmer. This certainly helps the uninitiated to understand what needed to be done on the old ships and how singing was used to achieve it.
In addition to the shanties, there are a number of what are described as sea songs, amongst them being Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Ode to Big Blue’ and Peter Bellamy’s ‘Walk around me brave boys’. The good doctor’s notes to the former provide a link to Moby Dick; just what you’ll have to buy the album to find out. It’s well worth it, and as it is dedicated to the RNLI, who will benefit financially, it’s doubly so.
Wayne Debeugny – FOLK ON TAP.

MEET ME AT SUNSET (Sic) – Kimber’s Men
This CD is a collection of unaccompanied sea shanties plus a couple of extra songs (e.g. Lord Franklin). Kimber’s men are four singers who perform the shanties in the format of a single voice leading with harmony for the refrains. The lead is shared amongst them.
The group give themselves humorous sobriquets – the Ship’s Doctor, the Cabin Boy – and come across as real enthusiasts.
This CD works on two levels. Firstly it is an enjoyable collection of songs with some fine harmony singing: secondly it is an excellent reference with detailed notes on the history of each song. The record is also dedicated to the RNLI who get a contribution from each CD.
Andy (Dartford Folk Club) – WHAT’S ON FOLKS

If you’ve not yet looked up the following web page – then I urge you to do so. It will surely put a smile on your face – something we all need at this moment in time.

Try >

Go on do it! It will give you a laugh.


Hi Joe,
I’ve been visiting a couple of friends of mine on death row in Texas. Now THERE'S a topic you ought to bring up in the Ramblings. Whilst waiting for the first of my chums to be brought down for our visit (no contact of course - plate glass and barely audible phones) I stood chatting to a guy of about our (your!!) age. One feels obliged to ask who they might be visiting and it turned out to be the father of a guy (Granville Riddle) being 'state assassinated' on Thursday. You might try and imagine yourself in his place. Visit Texas, put your watch back about 40 years. If you want more info let me know or visit There's a song of mine on the site but don't let that put you off. Hope you're well.
Cheers. Tim Broadbent.

Pete McClelland (Hobgoblin Music) writes …..

It is vitally important that everyone - not just musicians, but everyone who cares about the future of music in Britain - should get in touch with their MP right now. Otherwise, the cultural map of this country will be irreparably changed for ever.
The Licensing Bill was introduced in the Queens Speech at the opening of Parliament last November. This bill, i.e. the actual proposed legislation for The Licensing Act 2003, is quite horrendous. Needless to say the media have only picked up on the headline, “Pubs to Open All Hours” and strangely keeping quiet about The Bill’s heinous erosion of our civil liberties in everyday life.
The full horror story The Licensing Act 2003 is currently before the House of Lords (Licensing Bill [HL]) a copy of which can be obtained from H.M.S.O. and is also available on line at >

The following sums up the personal views of Pete McClelland and those of all at Hobgoblin Music on the licensing disaster which is unfolding:~

* The two in a bar law is being replaced by a ‘none in a bar’ law.
* Music making will become a licensable activity in every place, not just in pubs.
* Breaking this law will become a criminal offence, punishable by prison.
* All musicians, dancers and everyone connected with the arts are under threat.

The new Licensing Bill has been introduced to parliament on 14th November 2002. I believe it is an assault on our civil liberties as it clearly restricts participation in the performing arts. If passed as is it will be a disaster for musicians, event organisers, music teachers, studios and retailers, and bring repression unseen for centuries for our
whole musical culture in England and Wales. No other country in the world restricts the arts in such a way.
It is essential that maximum effort is put in by everyone affected right now to try to get the bill amended as far as possible to deal with the main objections listed here. This can be achieved by lobbying of your MP (write to them now), by contacting the media in your area, by offering your support to the campaigning bodies - the Musicians Union, The Music Industries Association - the Arts Council – EFDSS, etc.

Key Objections:
1. Making music should not be a licensable activity. Live Music should not be licensed at all - it isn't in Scotland, and most other countries. Existing and recently enhanced health and safety, fire, and noise regulations are in place across the whole of the UK and provide adequate protection in themselves. The licensing procedure requires clearance from police, fire, health & safety, local authority, and local residents, and may come with expensive conditions attached. It will not be a simple matter at all. (That lot are already and will continue to be consulted just to sell alcohol ~ why are they to be consulted a second time if the pub wants to put on live music and not if it wants to Blair out (sic) recorded music ? … Ed.)
2. The scope of locations covered is far too wide. The new Act will make music licensable not just in pubs and clubs and places where alcohol is sold, but also in private homes and gardens, in churches, fields and all other places. This is not a trivial license easily obtained, it is the same one as required to sell alcohol in pubs. There can be no justification for requiring a license to make music in these secondary locations. Tens of thousands of weddings, private parties, village fetes, School concerts etc. will be banned. (Appallingly, this appears to be H.M. Government’s interpretation of the White Paper ~ It is in the new bill ~ it will be law unless stopped. … Ed.)
3. The punishment proposed is way too strong. It should not be a criminal offence punishable by 6 months in prison or a £20,000 fine to play music. The penalties are far too strong. This is a clear civil liberties issue. The Musicians should not be liable to prosecution themselves if hired to play in unlicensed premises (Clause 134 makes them liable) (Clause 188 makes any location at all count as premises). Musicians will always have to check first whether a license is in place before performing, and this may not be easy in practice. (Government obviously interprets it’s own White Paper differently to just about everybody else. ~ How did this get in the Bill? … Ed.)
4. The scope of activities covered is far too wide. A new activity (Provision of)"Entertainment Facilities" will become licensable (schedule 1, paragraph 3). This vague clause will catch Music Shops, Music Studios, and Music and Dance teachers as it stands. All of these activities will require a license. It will become illegal, and punishable by prison to teach music, use a rehearsal room, try out an instrument in a music shop, make a recording in a recording studio, unless a license is first obtained. (Again ~ How did this get in The Licensing Bill? I cannot find mention of this in the White Paper… Ed.)
5. Amplified broadcasts are still legal! It cannot be right that amplified broadcast events should be legal while singing happy birthday by a single person will be illegal?
6. Folk Traditions under even greater threat. Also the folk traditions of this country have been handed down in pubs for centuries, this new "none in a bar" law will severely harm a national treasure which was already under threat from the existing "two in a bar" law. It cannot be right that Scottish traditions can be continued, while English and Welsh ones are to be made illegal.

If you put up a marquee in your garden for your daughter's wedding, and hire a band to play, you will be a criminal if you don't have a licence. The band leader will be a criminal too. Both of you may go to jail, and gain a criminal record. (Joe: This means that any future birthday party I hold will become an illegal activity! Interesting).

Other soon to be illegal activities: busking, music teaching, selling musical instruments, rehearsing, hospital concerts, fundraiser in the village hall, and much more. (Joe: So I’ve just committed a criminal offence by singing on the Fire Service picket line. Good!).

The current laws are enforced very zealously by many authorities at present. A landlord has recently been fined a considerable amount for allowing four customers to sing Happy Birthday. Many other pub based folk clubs and sessions have been shut down. We must expect this over zealous interpretation to be applied to any new law, so it is very important that no ambiguity is there for the local authorities to exploit.

Pete McClelland (Hobgoblin Music)

What can you do?

Locate your MP and email this to them right now on

Dear … MP
I find the sections of the Licensing Act 2003 concerning entertainment wholly unacceptable. I call upon your support of Early Day Motion 331 of 1Oth December 2002. If legislation is passed as laid out in The Licensing Bill [HL], the cultural map of this country will be irreparably changed for ever.
Further, I suggest that a right to freely perform music, song or dance is an intrinsic part of an individual’s right of freedom of expression, protected under Article 10 of The European Convention on Human Rights.
As my representative in parliament I ask you to fight on my behalf for sensible licensing laws.
Yours Sincerely …

Other useful addresses …….

Dr. Kim Howells. (The Minister), Department of Culture Media & Sport, 2/4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH

Your M.P. The House of Commons, London. SW1A 0AA

Phillip Drummond, Home Office , (Liquor, Gambling & Data Protection Unit), Room 1171, Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9AT


Do you ever wonder what your dog is really thinking? Japanese toy maker Takara claims it can get you in touch with your inner canine through its new Bowlingual. A radio microphone attaches to Fido's collar, and a handheld receiver "translates" his yelps, growls and whines into such phrases as "I can't stand it," "How boring" and "I'm lonely." How does it work? Samples of dog noises were collected, interpreted by animal behaviourists and stored in a doggie database. When your dog barks, the sound is beamed to the handheld and matched to the database. When in doubt, take him for a walk. --Reported in Time Magazine

Some Political Truisms from a longer list sent to me by Paul Adams at Fellside Records.

1. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -- George Bernard Shaw
2. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. -- Douglas Casey (1992)
3. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. -- P. J. O'Rourke
4. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else. -- Frederic Bastiat
5. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:
(a) If it moves, tax it.
(b) If it keeps moving, regulate it.
(c) And if it stops moving, subsidise it. -- Ronald Reagan (1986)
6. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the acts. -- Will Rogers
7. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. -- Pericles (430 B. C.)
8. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. -- Mark Twain (1866)
9. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. -- Mark Twain
10. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -- Winston Churchill.
11. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. -- Mark Twain
12. We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. -- Winston Churchill
13. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. – Edward Langley

A young lad has worked out a way of decoding DVDs. The Copyright authorities took him to court; but he won. The logic was that he had bought the DVD and could do what he wanted with it. That is now law.
Small wins against the corporation.

My grandmother started walking 5 miles a day when she was 60. Now she’s 97 and we don’t know where the hell she’s got to.

The only reason I would take up exercising is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.

I joined a health club last year, spent about 400 bucks. Haven't lost a pound. Apparently you have to go there.

I have to exercise early in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing.

I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.

If you are going to try cross-country skiing, start with a small country.


Keep smiling, keep singing

Joe Stead